SILVER CITY - Century-old grave markers in the Silver City Cemetery were damaged by a work crew from juvenile probation who were told to clean up the area.
In addition to cleaning up trash and pulling weeds, the youths mistakenly took historic wooden grave markers, wooden grave borders and fencing and tossed all of them into piles.
Lyon County Facilities director Dick Faber said the youths didn't know any better.
"They were community service kids, they were supervised, but there were piles of wood around there, and without knowing any better, they picked up some wood that they weren't supposed to and put it in a pile," he said. "We're going to be working with the Comstock Historic District on getting it cleaned up and preserved better."
But enough damage was done to anger Lula Kendall, 94, a lifelong Silver City resident who sits on the town's cemetery committee. She said she has more loved ones in the cemetery than anyone else.
"I am certainly disgusted with them for even doing such a thing," she said. "It was an old historical cemetery."
Erich Obermayr, chairman of the Silver City Town Advisory Board, said at the board meeting Tuesday that county employees always did a good job pulling weeds without damaging historic markers, but these juveniles, though they were supervised, unintentionally caused a great deal of damage.
The board decided to write a letter to the county commissioners asking for assistance in restoring or replacing the markers.
Bedeau said a workshop on how to proceed will be part of the next Comstock Historic District meeting, set for 7 p.m. Monday at the Comstock History Center in Virginia City.
Ron Reno, a local archaeologist, said the damage was extensive and irreparable. He wants new markers made in the style of the old, but using new materials.
Reno and his wife, Mona, had taken photos of the cemetery about 19 years ago, and those photos will now be used to document what was there. "Some are wood shingles that were used as markers," he said. "We have to match the old photos to what is in the piles."
The piles of wood markers and other artifacts have been collected and are being stored in sheds, Reno said.
"There are graves we will never be able to relocate," Reno said. He also said that many of the wooden markers will have to be replaced with replicas, because the knocking over, pulling up and tossing of the more than 100-year-old wood damaged it beyond repair.
Bedeau said the juvenile work crew wasn't responsible for all the damage, but that they would not work on the cemetery again.
"They had the best of motives, they wanted to clean everything up, but that's not the best approach with historic material that could be in various states of disrepair," Bedeau said.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 882-2111 ext. 351.
If you go
WHAT: Comstock Historic District Commission meeting
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Comstock History Center, E and Union streets, Virginia City
Damages at the Silver City Cemetery include:
• About nine wooden grave surrounds (fences)
• Many historic pickets
• About 10 wooden grave markers
• Several wooden borders
- Source: Ron Reno